We're kicking off a new video tutorial series here at Whitelines: Powder Basics with James Stentiford - the first Brit ever to compete on the Freeride World Tour. Over the next five weeks we'll be bringing you all the knowledge you'll need to get you started in the deep stuff, or even improve your techniques if you've already made some tracks.
There's no better way to start off than by knowing the very basics: how to turn in powder. Whilst it might not be too dissimilar to simply turning on the piste, there are a few essential differences you need to know to stop your nose digging and sending you over the bars.
Watch the video above, but we've also included some of the most important bits from the WL Basics below to help you out even more.
Toeside Powder Turns
Know the Terrain
Learn toeside powder turns in a featureless snowfield first, and be sure to know that there aren’t any hidden rocks, tree stumps or other features under the snow, as you’re about to put your knee into the ground at high speed…
Presuming that you want to kick up a big plume of snow (and why wouldn’t you?) then you’re going to need to take a lot of speed towards your turn. Remember, in powder: speed is your friend! So boot it into the powder field (take speed off the piste if possible) and remember that a flat (ish) powder slope will slow you down fairly quickly.
"It’s important not to let your nose sink, but don’t lean back! When riding powder, simply apply more pressure through your rear foot, pushing the tail of the board down into the snow"
It’s important not to let your nose sink, but don’t lean back! When riding powder, simply apply more pressure through your rear foot, pushing the tail of the board down into the snow until your board starts to float. You don’t need to bend awkwardly and dangle your rear arm near the snow, just stay balanced.
Actually turning in powder is ludicrously easy: simply lean on your toe edge and you’ll head in that direction. But because you want to kick out some snow, crouch down so your back leg is bent and prepare to unleash all that power.
Kick Your Foot Out
You’re about to push your back foot out and backwards, like a mule practicing a particularly difficult karate move. Twist your upper body so your back hand is pointing in the direction that you’re going, and push hard on your back foot so that it kicks snow out. This is a bit like a skid and the longer and harder you can do it, the better the skid (or rather, the plume of snow you’re chucking out) will be. However, like the skid on a Raleigh Grifter, you don’t want to come to a complete stop.
"Be sure you don’t go completely sideways or keep the brakes on too long and simply stop"
Complete the Turn
Keep going! As you’re kicking that foot out, you’re creating a lot of friction (it’s what pushes the snow in the air). However, be sure you don’t go completely sideways or keep the brakes on too long and simply stop. If so, you’ve not done a powder turn, you’ve just done a powder halt.
All Things Having Gone Well...
You should have enough speed and momentum to simply pull your back foot back, twist your upper body back to your regular riding position, and stand back upright heading straight down the fall line.
Heelside Powder Turns
Again, presuming that you want to kick up a big plume of snow (and then shoot through it, like Han Solo blowing up Tie Fighters with the Milennium Falcon’s guns) then speed is undoubtedly your friend.
"If you want to kick up a big plume of snow (and then shoot through it, like Han Solo blowing up Tie Fighters with the Milennium Falcon’s guns) then speed is undoubtedly your friend"
Initiate the Turn
Booting it through the powder, initiate the turn by twisting your upper body and leaning on your heel edge. Keep quite low, and have your back foot bent so that you’re ready to push it out at the required moment to get that all-important plume of spray in the air.
As you start to turn, increase the pressure on your back foot so you’re pushing against the snow. Essentially, you’re doing a huge, slow-motion emergency stop. So as your board comes around 90-degrees from the direction you’re travelling, really push against the edge and kick that back foot out so the snow underneath your board is pushed directly in front of you.
Get Face Shots
This is going to cause a problem: when you push snow out in front of yourself, that snow is going to blow up in front of you and blind you. This is the so-called ‘face shot’, and it feels amazing. You’ll get ice-crystals on your goggles, you’ll get snow up your nose, and if you’re inhaling then prepare to get a lung full of icy, fresh air. It’s amazing. Just don’t panic when everything goes white – you’ll soon emerge from the smoke like Tom Cruise in Days of Thunder…
"The key thing here is to not push too hard for too long"
Don’t Leave the Brakes On Too Long
As with the toeside turn, the key thing here is to not push too hard for too long. You’ll have to work the balance out yourself, but stopping in powder can be a pain, so as you slow down to a near stop, simply unweight that back leg, and turn your board straight again, aiming to keep enough speed and momentum under your board to stop it sinking.